A teenager taught me something this past weekend. We had hosted our office holiday party and she was helping with the clean-up. She scraped the food off of the dishes and put the dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher, without rinsing them first. I cringed. But the dishes came out of the dishwasher perfectly clean. So I did a little research and sure enough, the dishwasher we have, and all of the dishwashers we currently recommend and install for our clients, will wash the dishes beautifully without the need to pre-clean.
I know I am not the only person who rinses dishes before putting them in the dishwasher as habit from helping in the kitchen as a child, and from poor performing dishwashers in rental apartments as a younger adult. So, now that I am enlightened to this opportunity to conserve water, I thought I would take this opportunity to share this knowledge.
The average dishwasher uses 6 gallons per cycle; Energy Star rated dishwashers use only 4 gallons. The average kitchen faucet runs at about 2 gallons per minute. For comparison, imagine washing by hand, or rinsing, an entire dishwasher full of dishes in 2 to 3 minutes. Realistically it takes at least twice as long to rinse that many dishes. So rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher uses double the amount of water as the dishwasher uses alone.
But aren’t we helping the dishwasher by rinsing the dishes first? As a Consumer Reports article bluntly puts it “the dishwasher does not need your help.” In fact, the less we try to help, the more efficient the dishwasher can be. Turns out, the newer dishwashers have a sensor that determines how hard it needs to work by measuring how dirty the water is. By pre-rinsing or pre-washing by hand, we are sabotaging the sensor’s capability to make an accurate determination of needed effort and the dishes may not get as clean as a result.
If you are concerned that the dishes may sit in the dishwasher too long before being washed, use the pre-rinse option on your dishwasher. This feature does the rinsing for you!
And if you don’t believe me, read your dishwasher’s manual. Dishwasher manufacturers are trying their best to reduce the amount of water, soap and time needed to clean dishes, and the manual will tell you all about it. Since they are trying so hard, we should at least read what they have to say! If you cannot find your manual, most manufacturers have manuals accessible on their website. Your dishwasher’s model number is likely on the inside edge of the door.
Although it feels counter-intuitive, I encourage you to try loading the dishwasher without rinsing, just once, and see how your dishwasher performs.